Ex-Dulles Rail exec steered cash to wife, daughter

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Loudoun supervisors must decide by July 4 whether to back the second phase of the Dulles Rail project, which would extend the Silver Line into the county, or to pull out.
examiner file Loudoun supervisors must decide by July 4 whether to back the second phase of the Dulles Rail project, which would extend the Silver Line into the county, or to pull out.
Local,Virginia,Transportation,Liz Essley,MWAA

A former top official at the troubled agency overseeing the $6 billion Dulles Rail project used his post to help his wife and daughter rake in nearly $200,000 from agency contracts over several years, The Washington Examiner has learned.

The FBI is investigating possible kickbacks to Arl Williams, the former vice president in charge of personnel at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, sources familiar with the investigation told The Examiner.

Williams quit his job late last year, one day before a federal inspector general publicly accused him of providing jobs to relatives, one of whom may have been unqualified. But sources said the FBI may go beyond those accusations to determine whether Williams illegally profited from his job. Among Williams' potential misdeeds is a 2004 no-bid contract for work in his department awarded to a company that hired his wife and daughter as subcontractors -- a contract Williams was supervising, authority documents obtained by The Examiner show.

Arl Williams, the vice president of human resources at the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, resigned the day before a November federal inspector general's report cited him for:
» Violating all three parts of an anti-nepotism policy by hiring and supervising relatives.
» Hiring a relative who had not yet cleared a criminal background check.
» Indirectly supervising another relative.
» Insisting on "a personally preferred candidate" for a labor relations job, delaying the filling of that position for more than a year.
» Allowing nonstudents to be hired through a student intern program.
» Disregarding a background check that showed a job candidate lied and had a bad credit history.
» Allowed an employee with a criminal record "access to sensitive and personal information" for more than a year.
» Paying a secretary 20 percent more than authority compensations experts recommended.
» Awarding a manager in his office two $2,500 bonuses within seven weeks.

The contract awarded to PJ's Pen was valued at $54,000 when it was approved in 2004. But extensions and adjustments to the contract's terms drove up its worth to $432,000 by 2006, documents show.

Williams' wife, Teresa Thompson Williams, and his daughter, Anne Williams, working for PJ's Pen, billed the authority $60 to $75 an hour to write ad copy, job descriptions and other documents for the human resources department that Arl Williams ran. The women racked up more than $192,000 in billable hours over several years, nearly half of the total contract, the documents show. Company owner Paulette J. Robinson and other subcontractors got the rest of the money.

An authority spokeswoman said it's unclear why the contract was awarded without competition.

"We cannot locate the complete initial contract," spokeswoman Kimberly Gibbs said in an email.

When the contract was renewed in 2008, the authority opened the bidding to competitors but awarded it again to the company that employed Williams' wife and daughter. The new contract was worth about $285,000, but PJ's Pen also was awarded a second contract worth an additional $96,000.

The airports authority has since investigated the contract awarded to PJ's Pen, but Gibbs said she was unaware of any findings from that investigation.

"Many areas in human resources have been reviewed," Gibbs said. "PJ's Pen was one of those areas."

Neither the Williams family nor Robinson returned calls seeking comment.

The airports authority came under fire from state and federal officials last year for its lax ethics rules, lavish spending on board members' travel, improperly awarded no-bid contracts and nepotism. U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood appointed a federal watchdog to monitor the reforms the authority pledged to institute, including changes to its ethics and contracting policies.

"During the last several months, the airports authority has revised policies and procedures including our ethics policy," Gibbs said. "All airports authority employees have been trained in the new policy."

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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